Friday, June 3, 2016

Copa America Centenario Day 1: Colombia takes advantage of few chances to shut down USA

United States 0-2 Colombia
The USA and Colombia kicked off this much anticipated Copa America Centenario celebration in Santa Clara, California. The goal for Jurgen Klinsmann's men is a lofty one, and this opening match had the possibility to set the tone for the rest of their run through this South American gauntlet. Colombia would provide a tough opening opponent. Their run in the 2014 World Cup is still fresh in people's minds, and they certainly are a quality team.

Colombia got the jump on the Americans in the eighth minute. A corner conceded by Geoff Cameron led to the same man losing his mark and allowing Cristian Zapata to score his first international goal with a nice knockdown to his boot. The USA actually recovered quite well. Outside that goal, some may even say they were the better team in the first half. They controlled possession and won a couple of dangerous set pieces. Clint Dempsey also missed an equalizer by mere inches around the 35 minute mark.

That all got thrown out in the 40th minute when DeAndre Yedlin blocked a cross with his hand in the penalty allowing James Rodriguez to confidently double Colombia's lead from the penalty spot.

The halftime score was nothing short of frustrating for the Americans. They were the better side in open play and if it hadn't been for one sloppy defense of a corner and a close (but correct) call penalty, it would have been anyone's game going into the second half.

That second half got off to an uncomfortable start, but soon settled down. The USA stabilized with the ball, but outside a quick succession of three corners and a Clint Dempsey free kick that was wonderfully saved by David Ospina, were unable to really threaten until the tail end of the match when desperation kicked in. Klinsmann brought on Darlington Nagbe and Christian Pulisic midway through the half as a way to provide some spark, but neither was able to get anything.

Before that, though, they were unlucky not to have gone down 3-0 after Carlos Bacca got free behind the defense and drilled a shot into the bottom of the crossbar.

As the clock ticked down, the thought turned from fighting back for a draw to just getting a goal to help out the goal difference. Nothing ever came and the match went to Colombia thanks to a couple of first half slips by the USA.

In truth, even though the United States was the better team in open play for much of the match, I don't think they were ever going to get anything better than a 0-0 draw. Their final pass was always misplaced, which led to very few actual scoring chances. There was a lack of communication in the attacking third that prevented many attacks from even getting started to begin with.

This result is far from a disaster. The loss stings a bit, but they are still the favorites against Costa Rica and Paraguay, which can provide six points if they just improve in the attacking third.

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